Eastpointe applies for traffic light improvement grants

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published July 9, 2019

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EASTPOINTE — The Eastpointe City Council voted to apply for two grants at its regular meeting July 2. If received, the grants would allow the city to proceed with a major overhaul of its traffic light system.

The grants would provide more than $1.8 million to Eastpointe and would come from two federally funded programs: the Highway Safety Improvement Program and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant.

“There are 29 traffic signals in the city, and of them, 14 are 100% under our jurisdiction,” said Jose Abraham, the Department of Public Works and Services director. “There are six that are (the Michigan Department of Transportation’s), five are jointly owned by the city and Macomb County, and three are owned by us and the city of Roseville, and one that is owned between our city and Harper Woods.”

The primary matter that would be affected by the grant money would be changing the majority of traffic lights within Eastpointe to LED lights.

“None of the signals under our jurisdiction are LED lights, except some of MDOT’s lights on Gratiot,” said Abraham. “We want to replace the signals with LED bulbs instead of the regular incandescent bulbs, which they have now. The important thing is the LED bulb is brighter, so it can be seen far better and farther away. In an LED bulb, there are several small bulbs instead of just one large bulb. If a bulb goes out in a traditional light, the signal becomes inoperable until replaced. If one light goes out in an LED light, the signal can still operate until that bulb can be replaced. LEDs also last longer and use less electricity than traditional bulbs, reducing problems further and saving on energy costs.”

The grants would require an approximately $260,000 match from the city of Eastpointe. Abraham said the improvements to safety and the long-term cost savings would be well worth the investment.

“We also would upgrade timers and the boards that control each intersection, replace the pedestrian signals at intersections so pedestrians can cross more safely, and add illuminated street name signs,” he said. “It all means we’ll have safer streets in Eastpointe.”

The vote to apply for the grants passed 2-1, with Mayor Suzanne Pixley voting against the measure and City Council members Monique Owens and Michael Klinefelt being absent.

Pixley said she voted against applying for the grant funding due to her wanting more information on the ownership of the traffic lights within Eastpointe, and her not seeing any pressing need for new lights at this time.

“It’s $260,000 for grant matching, and that comes out of our street funds, and that’s a lot of money to take out of our funds. A lot of those lights are owned by the state or managed by the county, so I wanted to see if that’s really us who should be paying for them. That’s just a heck of a lot of money out of our pockets, and I’m not familiar with any issues with our traffic lights.”

Abraham said that the city would benefit from the program and that there is still time to ensure that the city can handle the improvements financially.

“This will make the signals safer. They are working now, but the plan is to upgrade them for better performance assets,” said Abraham. “This opportunity is available now and I think we should be taking the opportunity to take a step to add safer infrastructure to our city. That $260,000 would be paid in 2021 and 2022, so it won’t add an immediate financial strain on the city. We have a couple of years to plan for this added expense.”

Abraham called it a win-win for the city.

“It will save money on maintenance, it will save money in the long term for the city and it has uncountable safety benefits,” he said. “It is a good idea all around.”